Can a commercial property owner charge more than 20% of the monthly lease in late fees per month and can I be locked out of my space before the eviction process begins?

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Can a commercial property owner charge more than 20% of the monthly lease in late fees per month and can I be locked out of my space before the eviction process begins?

I currently rent a commercial space for $1050 per month. The landlord is charging me $75 per week in late fees which totals $300 per month which is more than $30. The landlord has also stated that he will lock me out on the day of the eviction process. Is this illegal?

Asked on December 6, 2017 under Real Estate Law, Maryland

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

1) Yes it is legal for a commercial landlord to charge *any* amount of late fees reflected in the written lease for the space--the law considers that commercial tenants, unlike residential ones, are "sophisticated" parties capable of protecting themselves and negotiating whatever terms they are willing to agree to, so if you signed a lease with this late fee, it is legal. Commercial tenants don't get the protections that residential tenants do.
2) If the late fee is not in a written lease, however, it is generally not enforceable.
3) You can be locked out when you are in default (i.e. the day of the process) IF the lease specifically allows your landlord to do this. If there is no lease provision allowing this (or if you'd instead been a residential tenant), you can only be locked out after going to court, which, however, only takes around 2 or so weeks in your state.


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